Hadrian’s Wall Exploration 5 – Whitley Castle Roman Fort

I have included the South Tynedale Railway – website – in previous blogs. It is a special line for me as Gareth drove diesel trains here. Here he is, in his element (7 June 2012).

P1000299I came for a visit, to meet Clare (the mum of one of my Godsons), and we had a train ride to Kirkhaugh. It was a beautiful day for a train ride, and a beautiful day for a walk.


We walked out of Kirkhaugh station and climbed up to the main road, then joined the Pennine Way. Clare had done this many years ago, but didn’t remember this bit. We climbed up to Whitley Castle, the Roman fort of Epiacum. The fort stands 1,050 feet above sea level, and has a unique rhomboidal shape, presumably because of the gently sloping site on which it stood.


The fort’s defences were a stone wall surrounded by earthen banks and ditches – an amazing collection of lumps and bumps. There is a later farm wall which divides the fort, and makes it a bit difficult to get a full picture.


It was probably built around AD 122 at the same time as Hadrian’s Wall, and stands on the Maiden Wall, a Roman road which runs from Kirby Thore in the Eden Valley, through to Carvoran on the Wall.

map epiacumIt is thought that there was Roman mining in this area for both lead and silver, and the garrison (probably about 500 soldiers) would no doubt have policed this. A bath house and a vicus has been found, and some altars have been excavated.


DSC02037There have been various attempts to develop the site as a tourist attraction. They have a website, from which I’ve taken some of these images, but it doesn’t seem to have been updated for a while. Their facebook page is current. The events page has a downloadable pdf walk leaflet. The Pennine Way passes on the north side of the fort, and there is a seat and information boards.

We made our own route back to the railway, and timed it just right for photos of the lunchtime train making its way north.

DSC02039We then walked down the trail beside the line, and the train beat us to Alston (just).

DSC02048We then took up residence in the café and had a good gossip. Hard work this Roman exploration!


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